Writer-director David Ayer got his start by writing the screenplay for the 2001 film “Training Day” and has since had some films that he directed, but he has finally come into his own with his latest piece: “End of Watch.”
Where the film lacks in his title suave, it makes up for in its ability to completely hold your brain hostage for 109 minutes.
The story follows Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Pena), who are two partnered cops for the LAPD. The story itself isn’t really about any specific job or bust that they make as much as it is about their lives.
Eventually, the two make some really big busts and they get in over their heads which leads to some heavy shoot-outs and quite gruesome scenes, but that is not where this film grabs a hold of you.
One aspect that really works here is overall feeling of the film. Ignore the fact that the film can get gruesome and pretty violent, the real intimidation within this narrative falls into the lap of psychology.
With the camera work, direction, and acting, “End of Watch” constantly has you on the edge of your seat. Every single second of this film is engaging. It is not predictable in any sense of the word and it personifies the phrase “theatrical experience.”
The other aspect that really kills and controls the piece is the chemistry between Pena and Gyllenhaal’s characters.
“Buddy Cop” movies come and go. Next to predictable romantic-comedies, there probably isn’t anything we see more of.
This is not a “Buddy Cop” movie.
“End of Watch” is able to break the “Buddy Cop” mold with it’s crazy camerawork, but also with its undeniable on-screen chemistry between its two stars.
Gyllenhaal and Pena are magnificent. Both really seem to know each other rather well and you can easily buy that they are officers and are comfortable in the blue.
Not to take any credit away from Pena, but Gyllenhaal really shines in the role of Brian, buying himself a ticket for some serious Oscar-talk.
One of the huge advertising points for this film has been the “found footage” style of the cinematography.
Take this with a grain salt.
While there are a lot of “found footage” sequences in the film, it doesn’t completely rely on it. Gyllenhaal’s “Brian” is in a film class and is recording a lot of the stuff on his job for the class, so there is narrative motivation for “found footage,” but the necessity of it is still debatable.
There are a lot of sequences, most notably on some of the “break-ins,” where they pull away from the “found-footage” idea and push towards a general hand-held manic style of cinematography that really works and grabs you by the nerves and never lets go.
Pena and Gyllenhaal are not the only good performances in there, either. We also see an entertaining performance from Anna Kendrick (“Up in the Air”) and a very different turn, but strong performance from America Ferrera, who is mostly commonly known as “Ugly Betty.”
“End of Watch” is a cop movie that is going to eventually break the mold for most cop movies that we see in the future. So start the Oscar-talk now.
While it could have benefitted from just sticking strictly to the hand-held style, the overall experience is extraordinary.
Go see this film in a theater. It is a true experience.